Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound today at Space Coast Stadium.
The skies have cleared, but the wind is still blowing straight out to center field at a vicious rate. In other words, if you hit the ball into the air today, there's a reasonable chance it's going to fly over the fence.
So that's the challenge for Stephen Strasburg as he takes the mound for his first outing of the spring. This won't be nearly as big a deal as the last time the phenom toed the rubber at Space Coast Stadium (during his rookie spring in 2010). Now, it's just about getting his work in and building himself up for a possible Opening Day start at Wrigley Field (Davey Johnson says he'll make that announcement sometime next week).
Strasburg will likely go two innings today, throwing 40-45 pitches. He'll be replaced by Tom Gorzelanny, then Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge and Drew Storen. Most of the regulars are in the lineup, the only exceptions being Mark DeRosa at first base and Jason Michaels and Brett Carroll manning the two corner outfield spots.
Plenty of ways to monitor today's game: Bob and F.P. are here for the TV broadcast, Charlie and Dave are back for the call on the radio, and of course I'm here with updates and analysis throughout...
HOUSTON ASTROS vs. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Space Coast Stadium, Viera
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV: MASN (live), MLB Network (delayed at 4 p.m.)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 58 degrees, Wind 26 mph out to CF
STARTING LINEUPS12:57 p.m. -- Just about ready to start here. They held a moment of silence for Gary Carter, the former Expos and Mets great who passed away last month. Nice recognition of the franchise's original history.
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Michael Morse
CF Jayson Werth
1B Mark DeRosa
C Wilson Ramos
LF Jason Michaels
RF Brett Carroll
(P Stephen Strasburg)
CF Jordan Schafer
SS Marwin Gonzalez
RF Brian Bogusevic
LF J.D. Martinez
DH Fernando Martinez
2B Matt Downs
3B Brett Wallace
1B Chris Johnson
C Chris Snyder
(P J.A. Happ)
1:05 p.m. -- And we're underway as Stephen Strasburg fires a fastball over just outside to Jordan Schafer for ball one.
1:11 p.m. -- A nice, tidy, 14-pitch first inning for Strasburg. He got Schafer to fly out to right, then got Marwin Gonzalez to bounce out to first. He closed out the inning by striking out Brian Bogusevic swinging at what appeared to be a changeup. Tough to tell the pitches today, because there's no radar gun.
1:18 p.m. -- And after receiving a healthy ovation as he stepped to the plate for the first time since signing his contract extension, Ryan Zimmerman ... grounds into a double play. That came after Danny Espinosa lined a one-out single to center, which came after Ian Desmond grounded out to second. Scoreless after one.
1:27 p.m. -- Two scoreless innings in the books for Strasburg. He allowed a one-out, opposite-field double to Fernando Martinez but otherwise kept the Astros off the bases. Fourteen pitches (nine strikes) in that inning, so he's at 28 total pitches (17 strikes) overall. Scoreless as we go to the bottom of the second.
1:38 p.m. -- One of the few true roster battles this spring might well be the race for the 25th man, and it might well come down to a couple of right-handed outfielders: Jason Michaels and Brett Carroll. Well, Michaels just took an early lead in the race, blooping an RBI single to center to score Michael Morse from second. Carroll then came up with two outs and runners on second and third, and proceeded to ground out to short. Nats lead 1-0 as Strasburg returns for the top of the third.
1:47 p.m. -- Strasburg couldn't quite get through the third inning before reaching his pitch limit. Things started off well when he buckled Chris Johnson's knees with a beautiful curveball, but Chris Snyder followed by crushing a solo homer down the left-field line on a 3-1 fastball. No help from the wind there, that one was legit. Schafer then sent a double down the right-field line and took third on a wild pitch, but Strasburg bounced back to strike out Gonzalez. That brought Davey Johnson out of the dugout and brought Strasburg out of the game. His final line: 2.2 ip, 3 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 3 k, 1 wp, 44 pitches, 26 strikes. Tom Gorzelanny now in.
1:57 p.m. -- Whoops, Strasburg's line wasn't final after all, because Gorzelanny plunked Bogusevic and then served up a three-run homer to J.D. Martinez. So one of those runs is charged to Strasburg. Gorzelanny really laboring out there, following the homer by walking Fernando Martinez. He should've gotten out of the inning, but Ian Desmond booted a grounder to prolong the inning. So as we head to the bottom of the third, it's now 4-1 Astros.
2:08 p.m. -- Big opportunity for Jayson Werth, with two on and two out ... and he pops out to second. Saw that a few times last year. Still 4-1 after three.
2:25 p.m. -- Not exactly the spring debut Tom Gorzelanny was looking for. How bad was it? Well, he faced 12 batters and retired only three of them. He issued four walks, a pair of three-run homers, a run-scoring wild pitch, plunked a batter and ... well, need I say anymore? Yikes. The Astros lead 9-1 as Ryan Mattheus comes in to clean up the bottom of the fourth.
2:32 p.m. -- Hey, the bottom of the fourth is finally over. Though not before Desmond committed another error, this time of the throwing variety. This is going well, right?
2:45 p.m. -- Some good news: The Nats have racked up seven hits in four innings. Some bad news: They've stranded six of those baserunners, including two just now in the bottom of the fourth when Henry Sosa struck out both Carroll and Desmond. Still 9-1.
2:47 p.m. -- If you're looking for a reason to keep watching this game ... Bryce Harper just entered in right field and Anthony Rendon just entered at shortstop.
3:11 p.m. -- Say this about Harper: He hustles out of the box every time, no matter what. And that hustle may have just helped him beat out a bouncer up the middle that was corralled by the Houston shortstop, who couldn't make the throw in time. Unfortunately for the Nationals, Mark Teahen struck out looking and Carlos Maldonado grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Brad Lidge enters for the seventh, the Nationals still trailing 9-1.
3:30 p.m. -- Just got back from the clubhouse, where Stephen Strasburg held court for a few minutes to discuss his outing. I'll have a full article on him in a little while, but in a nutshell he was satisfied with his start, wants to get a better handle on his curveball, though. Meanwhile, Chad Tracy singled in a run in the bottom of the seventh, cutting the lead to 9-2.
3:44 p.m. -- Houston makes it 10-2 in the eighth when Brian Bixler sends a ball into the right-field corner, it slips past Harper and Bixler motors into third with a triple. He then scored when Corey Brown hesitated upon catching a shallow fly ball to left, ultimately throwing to second base instead of firing to the cutoff man to prevent the tag-up.
3:49 p.m. -- Harper strikes out looking at an outside fastball from right-hander Fernando Rodriguez to lead off the bottom of the eighth. So the kid is 1-for-2 today, 2-for-5 overall in the Grapefruit League so far.
3:59 p.m. -- Good stuff from Drew Storen in the top of the ninth, getting a couple of strikeouts, including one of Delino DeShields. That's Delino DeShields Jr. I covered his dad's final season with the Orioles. Man, I'm getting old.
4:01 p.m. -- Today's official paid attendance: 3,363.
4:08 p.m. -- It's over. Final score: Astros 10, Nationals 2. Considering eight of those runs scored while Tom Gorzelanny was on the mound, this wasn't nearly as bad as it looked. Pretty much everyone else on the pitching staff looked sharp.